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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 30, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 39
Endearing MilkMilk Lemonade could use some tightening
Arts & Entertainment
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Endearing MilkMilk Lemonade could use some tightening

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

MilkMilk Lemonade
Washington Ensemble Theatre
Through October 10


The whole next season at Washington Ensemble Theatre (WET) is focused on local playwrights and local generation of productions. Kudos to them for realizing what a lot of people moan about: that there is a ton of local talent to exploit, both in acting and in writing, which is often overlooked. WET is poised to do what they can to overcome the taint of 'local' for the next year.

Starting off is a play by Cornish grad Joshua Conkel, endearingly entitled MilkMilk Lemonade. The title apparently references a dirty little nursery rhyme: 'Milk, milk, lemonade / 'Round the corner, fudge is made / Stick your finger up the hole / Out comes a chocolate Tootsie roll.'

The whole of the rhyme easily sets the tone for this story of fifth-grader Emory (an engaging Tim Smith-Stewart), who lives on a chicken farm with his only living relative, Nanna (Troy Mink in his cross-dressing, farting, mumbling, conservative best), and whose best friend is a giant chicken.

Emory is different. He likes dolls, of course, and practices well-choreographed dances with Linda, the chicken, complete with jazz hands and Broadway dreams. Um, Gay, right? Right. Nanna does her level best to help him understand that boys don't do that sort of thing, but somehow Emory still likes himself and doesn't hate his Nanna, though he hates the farm.

Emory is outrageously taunted and beaten up by the neighbor kid, Elliot (a menacingly large Noah Benezra, who manages to be both dangerous and sympathetic by turns), and Emory somehow understands that Elliot hates to like him, and likes him anyway. They play a sexually charged game of 'house' together until Elliot's evil twin (who lives in his thigh) eggs Elliot on towards hurting Emory.

The play mostly hangs together with the help of an oddly directed narrator (Jennifer Pratt) who triples as an interpreter of Linda's clucking and the evil twin, until toward the end when Linda does a failed standup routine at a nightclub and then gets bitten by a black widow spider and dies. All the relevant points Conkel seems to want to make are present without those diversions.

An off-kilter, rundown set by Kristyne A. Hughes sets the right tone for the farm, with the barn available to go into and do nasty, hidden things. Sound designer Skyler Burger has chosen just the right sounds and music to go along with the wacky themes and machines. Light-hearted lighting, plus a disco ball, is supplied by Allysa Thompson.

Director Montana von Fliss could help tighten both the rhythm and the content of the script a bit. Honing the message is just as important as making the gags work. But with help from choreographer Cathy Sutherland, Smith-Stewart and talented chicken Kate Sumpter (with a little participation from Pratt) do a pretty good attempt at their own Broadway show.

Benezra's Elliot ends up being the most sophisticated and difficult character, the most conflicted and the most resonant of many real-life quandaries. He seems to embody those who grow past fifth grade into closeted Gay-haters who hate themselves so much, they want to legislate their shame out of everyone else's life.

For more information, go to www.brownpapertickets.com /event/195838 or call 800-838-3006.

Discuss your opinions with sgncritic@gmail.com.

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